- The Washington Times - Monday, December 31, 2001

Privilege and challenge
In his New Year's message, the Czech ambassador to Washington, Martin Palous, said the only thing certain in these "historical times" is uncertainty.
Mr. Palous noted some global jitters about the next stage of the war against terrorism but insisted that the fight must continue.
"To live in historical times, as we certainly do, is both a great privilege and a great challenge," he wrote in the latest edition of the Czech Embassy newsletter.
"The world is literally changing in front of our eyes, and our most certain knowledge is that we do not know where all of the processes that we are part of and concerned about will end," he said.
Mr. Palous warned that the biggest mistake would be to give in to doubts and miss opportunities to achieve international goals.
"We still have to make decisions and to act resolutely under the given circumstances. We still must be aware that the biggest mistake would be to miss the right moment and to forfeit the window of opportunity.
"After the events of September 11, we see the grand coalition emerging in the struggle against international terrorism. We observe the European security debate in quite a new context, and we may be surprised or even puzzled by sudden positive twists in U.S.-Russian relations," he wrote.
European nations formerly dominated by the Soviet Union are suspicious of U.S. moves to bring Russia into closer cooperation with NATO.
The Czech Republic, one of NATO's newest members, will host an alliance summit in November where NATO is expected to decide on another round of expansion.

Criticizing Russia
The U.S. ambassador to Russia has criticized Moscow's human rights record and expressed doubts about the conviction of a Russian journalist sentenced to four years in prison for treason and espionage.
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow told the Moscow Echo radio station last week that the United States takes "very seriously" concerns raised by human rights groups that Grigory Pasko, a former military journalist, "may have been falsely accused" of espionage for revealing that the Russian navy dumped radioactive waste in the Pacific Ocean in 1997.
"We don't consider ourselves to be in a position to make a judgment on the legal dimensions of the case," Mr. Vershbow said in an interview on Friday, "but we do take very seriously concerns expressed by human rights advocates that Mr. Pasko may have been falsely accused of [treason] simply by informing the public of the dangers to the environment.
"Our interest is in seeing the legal process work in a fair and honest fashion without any interference by the authorities at any level," he said.
Mr. Pasko, 40, was convicted for passing on the information about the illegal dumping to Japanese journalists. He was a naval captain at the time working for Boyevaya Vakhta, the newspaper of the Russian Pacific fleet. Prosecutors accused him of revealing secret information about a naval exercise.
In the radio interview, Mr. Vershbow also said he was disappointed about the failure to guarantee human rights in Russia, saying the rule of law is "still taking root" more than a decade after the fall of communism.
The ambassador cast doubts about the bankruptcy of Russia's last major independent television network, TV6.
"For us it seems a little bizarre that a station that was becoming very profitable is suddenly being liquidate for bankruptcy. It doesn't add up," he said.
Mr. Vershbow said the United States also is concerned about the lack of an independent broadcast voice.
"There are concerns of many people in America, starting with President Bush, that the TV6 case represents a threat to the independence of the media in Russia.
"We don't take a position on the questions related to the different shareholders. Those are business issues. But we are worried if an independent news team is taken off the air," he said..

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